Landing Sam Darnold marks latest instance of strange Jets draft magic

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Kermit the Frog once said “It’s not easy being green,” but the New York Jets and general manager Mike Maccagnan have had it pretty easy lately when it comes to making their first round pick in the NFL Draft.

Okay, maybe it hasn’t been easy. But the NFL Draft involves plenty of astute evaluation and a whole lot of luck. However, everything has come up Gang Green in the first round three of the last four years.

When prodigious quarterback prospect Sam Darnold fell into the Jets’ laps after trading up from sixth overall to third on St. Patrick’s Day, of all days, it felt like the franchise’s fortunes were truly changing.

Yes, plenty of analysts were split on which quarterback in this loaded class was the best of the bunch. But Darnold was the most popular choice from the start of this arduous draft process to the moment he became a Jet at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

Even the Jets seemed elated and utterly shocked that Darnold was still on the board at No. 3 overall.

Have you ever seen Todd Bowles this happy? He looked like he won the lottery, or met his idol, Gladys Knight.

Sure, the results under the Bowles-Maccagnan regime haven’t been incredible. But maybe Maccagnan has the magic touch when it comes to the first round of the draft.

Flashback to 2015, when Leonard Williams, who many deemed as the best prospect in his class, fell to the Jets with the sixth overall pick. Williams is the most exciting player on the defense and is now the star of the defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson gone.

The strange draft magic occurred last year too, in the same spot, when Jamal Adams fell to Gang Green at pick six. Adams and his rookie running mate, Marcus Maye, posted impressive rookie seasons and have rejuvenated the secondary.

This year’s stroke of luck might be the most significant. If Darnold can be New York’s long-awaited savior under center, then the pick will go down as one of the greatest in franchise history.

Nobody knows if Darnold will be the next Joe Namath, or better. But he certainly has the tools and is only 20 years old. His 20-4 record as a starter is impressive, considering he wasn’t loaded with talent at USC like past high-profile Trojan QBs. He has a sixth sense in the pocket and can make something out of nothing with his arm talent when pressure looms. He can make every throw and is athletic enough to evade NFL defenders bearing down on him.

Yes, the 22 turnovers from 2017 are an issue. But part of that was Darnold forcing the issue a bit too much and discipline will simply come in time – again, he’s only 20 years old! 

Darnold will also benefit from being in the same quarterback room as Josh McCown. It’s been overstated, but McCown’s mentorship isn’t overblown.

Maybe Darnold is the savior. We won’t know for years. But on April 27, 2018, the stars have seemed to align. The original battle cry of the 2017 season was “Suck for Sam,” except the Jets didn’t suck enough, winning five games.

Yet, somehow, the Jets and Darnold found their way to each other. Sometimes, luck is truly all you need. For a franchise as snake-bitten as the New York Jets, this recent stroke of luck has been long overdue.

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